Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride


Dear Darling,

I was thinking the other night about what I could give you, right here, right now. These written echoes are all I know to give, other than to build myself up in anticipation of your desires. And I realized, if I had a list of “insider tips” about you, insights into your character and even a suggestion for how to respond, it would probably be invaluable.

These are not directives or instructions on catering to my moods, or anything resembling “how you should treat me.” As I’ve said, understanding myself is an ongoing process, and I learn more about me all the time. These are the results of those reflections on myself, and suggestions for how to act or react to my various flaws, quirks and eccentricities.

1. Whatever you do, don’t say anything bad about my mom. Even if I do.

2. Care. Please, oh please care, always and ever. Actively listen and engage me. Draw me out of myself, ask me about my day, or how I feel about something, because that’s so much of what I need and look for and seek after. Men aren’t supposed to spill their guts, nor have the arrogance to presume it’s wanted. But I want someone to care enough to ask and give me permission to spill a little, who won’t take “fine” as an answer. If you want me to, I’ll spill. But only if you want me to. And then, I’ll tidy up, recompose myself, dismiss the darkness, and turn the spotlight back on you.

3. Nudge me if I’m hogging the spotlight. I think we all try to use personal examples to relate to people, but sometimes it blurs the lines between identifying with someone and hijacking the conversation to talk about yourself. I’m fairly conscious of this, but if you ever feel we’ve shifted focus, do say so won’t you?

4. Be gentle and kind. Do you know how rare those traits are becoming? Darling, there will be times, plenty of them, when I’m going to slip and be a totally clueless idiot. I’ll say the wrong things, do the wrong things, make a terrible hash of it and be an insensitive jerk. As much as possible, cut me some slack and point that out gracefully. 90 percent of the time, it’s not on purpose. I’ll feel even worse than if you snap back, but if you are really patient and earn a trust even in the heat of argument, I know I’ll listen better.

5. Help me make decisions. I’m really good at right/wrong decisions, but if it’s not right or wrong, it’s not always easy.

6. Question me. Ask me the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a guy and never felt you could. “What were you like as a child?” “What’s it like to be a man?” “What are your greatest doubts or fears?” I don’t mind explaining, and it makes me feel good that you want to learn about me.

7. Accept that work is part of who I am. Every man derives some of his identity from his work and the ability to provide. I will try to preserve the balance, but please understand that sometimes, if I’m not working, I won’t feel fulfilled or useful, or even know what to do with myself.

8. Study me. Notice the little things. Pay attention to the things I like. There’s few things more gratifying than for someone to give you a gift or mention something in a comment that shows they remember something about you, that they studied, observed and didn’t forget it, and let it come out somewhere else in a compassionate way: “Oh! You were remembered that?” It shows understanding, accommodation, deference.

9. “Would you do that…for me?” A somewhat helpless, imploring appeal, will probably go pretty far and is also known as “not playing fair.”

10. Tell me what you need. I’ll always try to anticipate your needs, to expect them and plan for them, but sometimes I draw a blank and come up short. Sometimes I just need you to tell me what you need from me.

11. Remind me. Remind me to cut people slack. Remind me to be gracious…graciously. I forget that people are only human. Remind me to be encouraging. Remind me to put God and His will first. Remind me to pray for others. We all need those reminders, every day of our lives.

12. Try to understand me. It’s hard to keep the world off my shoulders sometimes, and there are certain darknesses in my soul you’ll just have to accept. Some things bothers me that don’t usually bother others. The fate my people troubles me, the fate of the nation. Please understand, or at least try. If you don’t, ask for clarification. There are times I think being understood is greater than being loved.

13. Be willing to show vulnerability and weakness. If you need me to hold you while you sob, there’s nothing I would rather do.

14. Validate me. A man’s ego is neither as strong nor as fragile as it seems, and we all need to hear we’re appreciated. Recognize, acknowledge and remind me that I’m a “great guy.” I try hard to live up to that, but sometimes I doubt.

15. Give me time. Some people are blessed with the ability to know their reaction to a comment and immediately respond. I am not always one of those people. Sometimes, a comment is made which takes me a while to realize actually upset me greatly.

16. Show me you appreciate and are grateful for my work and sacrifice. Smiling, giving me a peck on the cheek and saying “thank you for waiting” or “I really, really appreciate the work you put into this evening” or “I’m really grateful you chose to spend time with me tonight” would really, really validate those decisions, and keep me looking for the next right thing to do. Men aren’t that complicated, Darling, I’ve told you that. Any good dog will do what you want for praise and reward. Men are the same, trust me. Bestow a warm smile, a gracious hug or a heart-warming compliment to us and just watch us dance. Make a man feel like the greatest guy in the world, and it will inspire him to become even better.

17. Sometimes I have short temper bursts, usually at inanimate objects that drop or won’t close or won’t open or that hurt me. It’s petty, I know. I’m pretty sure words don’t fix those situations. Just a little sympathy is all. I’m good at putting big-boy pants on.

18. Celebrate me. I’ve got a birthday in a couple of weeks and I want it to be more than just the simple quiet family affair I’ve had for the last quarter-century. I would do this for people more often if I knew them well enough, or if enough people existed who would come to a surprise party. I helped put one together for two younger siblings a couple of years ago. And this past summer, I put a lot of effort into making one birthday special. It’s nice to have someone make a big deal for me, every once in a while. I have in mind to pick certain days at random in our family just to celebrate each member.

19. Inspire me. Give me the impossible advice of righteousness…the kind that will make me protest that only a perfect person could live up to it. The kind where I’m frustrated or angry and want to indulge my sinful nature and you say “why don’t you love them instead” or “why don’t you forgive them.” Of course it’s the right thing to do, and darn it if it’s the last thing I want to hear. But what are spouses for if not to spur each other on to impossibly higher heights of character?

20. Cook for me. Yes, there are plenty of male chefs, and no, a woman’s place is not in the kitchen. But like it or not, cooking is still kind of a woman’s thing. No diner ever made a killing by invoking memories of Dad’s cooking, and the prepackaged food in the stores doesn’t try to sell you on Grandpa’s apple turnovers. Now, I’m no a rube in the kitchen; I grill meats and scramble eggs. I fry fish, slice vegetables and peel fruit. I don’t order pizzas, or eat out except to join friends. If I want to get creative with the cutlery, I can. I just don’t have a palate that demands an hour of food prep, nor do I consider myself worth that much effort. But if you take it on as your job to keep your man fed, you get mad respect for that one. Part of the reason people get married is to look after each other, and part of the reason people date is to see if they want to get married. So if you’re dating me, note that I’ll be modeling the behavior I plan to show all throughout marriage, and that includes my desire to care for you in every aspect. In return, I’m looking for the same.

21. Cheer me. Sometimes a man needs his bride to be a coach. Sometimes, a team manager. Sometimes, a team player. And sometimes, he just needs someone cheering him on, being his biggest fan and his loudest champion.

I’ll be adding to this list as time goes by, so don’t forget to check back from time to time. And if you haven’t made one of these, I think it would be a loving and sensitive thing to do. We all need as much help as we can get.


March 20, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Things Other Guys Won't Do | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moonlight and Memory

Dear Darling,

A week’s respite is working its charm. A walk tonight under a cloudy moon found my mind much more at ease, even if it’s still fairly chilly tonight. I indulged my domestic side with some dishes and laundry, and as the sun went down I lit the lamps, listened to a few sermons and cooked up a tray of chicken and a pan of cookies. I sure wish you could have come over to join me.

Tonight is one of those times where I say to myself, “Beren old chap, you’re really not that bad off. Truth be told, you’re among the luckiest of men and that’s a fact.” Maybe that’s why I’m loneliest too.

I’m writing an article right now, I have two more proposals in, and am working on a third for a much larger company I’ve published with before which paid me enough to buy the truck. I just sent in a piece to the New York Times, don’t know if it will be published or not. I’ve worked the past two nights and again that’s been meaningful. (I’ve almost…missed night shift.) I’m scheduled to spend time at the races next month, not as a spectator, but a responder. They come from thousands of miles to watch the horses and bid on them, but few are so fortunate as to ride behind them as they run.

In a year I’ll be a nurse, and that climb is less steep for the rest of the year. I’m working out and seeing results. I’m setting examples for people. I can tell I’m already becoming a better person each day than I was. I know that I’m going somewhere, and with purpose, and in a small way, am content even in loneliness. The strangest part of ongoing growth is seeing how small the me of each yesterday seems.

I’ve had a run of flashbacks recently. I rediscovered a melody with which I was enamored last year (was it only a year ago?) and scattering back with it were the memories of summertime and independence and travel and the ocean. It took a decided dip long about September, but all told last year really was a good year, with a lot of fond memories. I wish those moments lasted longer, and I wish I could relive a lot of them.

But even more than that, I’ve had flashbacks into my distant past. The rattle of a fan or a certain fragrance have, on separate occasions, taken me back to the house of my great-grandmother where we’d stay sometimes as children. She was a relic from the past, my great-grandmother. She had memories of her grandmother retelling the story of hiding escaped slaves under piles of cotton. She had a portrait of an ancestor during the Civil War, and the cloak in which she was photographed still hung in her garage. I can still recall the smell of the dogs she kept in her house, the echo of the switchback staircase, the rotary dial phones and floral-patterned wallpaper. The dank and musty basement, the endless knickknacks on her shelves, the colored glass lampshades. Her push-button light switches, the gas stove and the smell of buttered toast. I used to sit out on her front porch sipping orange juice and watch the cars. She always used to have orange juice on hand because she knew I liked it. I think I’d even pray out there. My mother was a child here, she grew up right down the lane. I don’t know why I remember that house more than one or two that I’ve lived in. Nor why those memories come back tonight. Nor indeed why they should be terribly important for you to read. If you’ve ever had the simple joy of wandering back through rooms of your mind you’ve neglected for some time, then you’ll understand. And I suppose the hallmark of getting old(er) is the increasing value of memories.

Funny how memories only seem valuable after the fact.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that children today are living different childhoods than I, but no less formative. And sometimes, I really, really wish you and I were already in the position to make our parents proud with grandchildren. I’ve seen a lot of new parents the last two months. I’ve seen two homosexual couples, a large number of drug addicts, people with sexually-transmitted diseases, smokers and poor couples from the impoverished hill country. I’ve even seen one woman in her forties with a newborn baby whose father came out of a jar. These couples are far less equipped to find their way than we are, and in most cases they’re much younger than I. It would be nice to stop reading the instructions on these things and get started on the actual assembly. There’s only so much books can tell you.

Ah my dear, we’re going to need to remember to stay outward focused. We need to be the type that is organized enough to entertain couples and families. When our union rises from the ashes of loneliness, we shouldn’t forget those still left behind. The lonely, the single and the bereft…where will they go if not to the church and its members? To bars, or movies. I’ve not yet been in the situation in which I could sponsor random and serendipitous dinner invitations, but would you mind terribly if, on some occasion after church, we forced ourselves to invite some young couple or a struggling single to our house?

I’m always grateful for the times when my brain and body have opportunity to push their limits. Such limits also mean the times of relaxation are twice-blessed, and they allow more freedom for thoughts about you. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about you, I daresay. There are a lot of phone calls, text messages and invitations you’ve never received, along with a lot of flowers and gifts and kisses. We’ve fought a hundred times already in my mind, but we’ve made up a thousand times more.

Life is good, my dear. But it would be better if you were here. Do hurry up, won’t you?


March 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Your Time Is Coming

GleamingBrideDear Darling,

We all have our time in the light.

I’m not talking about fifteen minutes of fame. I’m talking about the moments where the sun shines fair and the light catches us just right to magnify all of our best and favorite features. We look our best, and feel our best, we feel grand and capable and hopeful, and everyone is looking at us while it happens, wishing us happiness and joy.

You’ve had a taste of that here and there, I know. Times you won, times you were proud of yourself, never happier to be you, times when everything came together at just the right time, or you were paid a compliment that somehow fell through your defenses, or you caught your reflection smiling back and approving your favorite outfit.

One day, someday soon, that day is coming round, bigger and better than it ever has been. It’ll be the sum of all those parts put together. Your friends will come to honor you, our families will celebrate and give gifts. The bells will ring, the organ play and down the aisle will come the only person that matters among the whole crowd in the entire church. Every eye will turn to you, radiant and glorious in white.

You will get to fret over wedding cards and decorations and venues just like you’ve wanted to, only this time you won’t be worried about bridesmaids’ outfits which fit or compliment you, but your friends. You’ll shine brightly in our engagement and wedding photos, and of these I attach the greatest premium. I don’t see us lacking for photographers with as many friends as I know in the industry, and these are the captured moments that can outlast a wedding gown or bouquet. We won’t let our friends and family be snapping away with their phones, but invite them to be present in the moment itself.

You will go from joy to joy as we seal our vows with a kiss, celebrate our union with a dance, and then depart at last.

But it’s not just a day, sweet heart. Days can disappoint, fail, be sabotaged. Winds can mar, rain can soak, tempers can flare. We can’t hinge all these golden hopes on the one day, but each one after. We can rest in each new morning, in the simple and intricate confidence of knowing we rise together to face life’s challenges.

You can rise knowing you’ve found something equal, something new. Something that turns your head because it touches your mind or heart in a way no one ever does, that you thought no one could. Something surprising and unexpected. Someone who asks questions, appreciates rawness, can get you to talk more, invite themselves to listen more. Someone who gives you an outlet, a ray of hope, a new perspective…or who will at least try.

Oh my dear, you’ve lived in the shadow often enough, unappreciated, unrecognized. You’re a crown of beauty, and one day the curtain will draw back and you’ll be properly brought into the light.

And oh, how you’ll gleam.

Until then.


March 20, 2014 Posted by | Anticipation, Our Timeline, Our Wedding | , , , , | Leave a comment